The issue of homeless veterans in the San Diego area has become ALMOST unmanageable.
There are about 1,400 homeless veterans among the 9,000 general homeless people in the San Diego area. There are a handful of Veterans Service Organizations, (VSOs), that together cannot keep up with the rate veterans become homeless or come to the area.
San Diego is the eighth largest city in the USA, but has the fourth largest homeless population.
I am a formerly homeless veteran myself. I spent more than a decade on the streets with major depression and bi-polar inclinations. I have seen the homeless veteran advocacy system from the end user standpoint. Both in the care of the VA and private contractors to the VA. As well as a few faith-based shelters. I know the strengths and weaknesses first hand.
Once a person finds themselves on the street and dependent on charity to survive, it causes damage to a person’s self-esteem. They blame themselves for their situation. This may or may not be true, but it is immaterial once they are on the street. At that point the focus should be on getting back off the streets as soon as possible.
The point of the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Tent, (hVET), will be to rebuild the homeless veteran’s self-respect. It is a known psychological principle that a person needs to believe they deserve help. If a person thinks they did something wrong and their self-image is poor they will be harder to reach out to with help to get back on their feet.
The vision of hVET is to find various motivational speakers to participate by giving speeches and workshops designed specifically to raise the self image of homeless veterans to empower them to be better at job interviews, to work closer with case managers to follow a plan to rise from homelessness and become a successful, contributing member of society.
The tent itself will raise awareness in the area of the homeless veterans issue. The tent will be large, like a circus tent. It will be located along a major, well traveled, highway with lots of land around it for parking and “counseling tables”. These will be scattered around the grounds to give places for one on one counseling and discussions.
The event itself will be non-religious. However many local church homeless outreach teams will be invited as attendees. Many one on one connections will be made and many homeless veterans as well as general homeless will make connections with service organizations.
The scope of the event, as well as the count of how many in need find their needs met through this event, will attract higher level donors. I believe donors at any level want to see the best use of their donations.
The method of operation for the hVET event will be a mix of local, and possibly higher level, motivational speakers. These will be designed to plant seeds in the minds of those who need help getting off the streets. This will help build their self-respect, which will open them up to accepting the help offered as well as using every way they can to get back up.
Between speakers we will have a mix of local music as well as local testimonies from those who have risen from the streets and their tips on how to manage it.
Step Two -Intermission
My belief is that there are a lot of large donors out there that can help us bring the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town into reality.
I believe they really want to help. But they don’t want to waste their money.
The hVET event is the introduction of a new idea in significantly helping homeless veterans, as well as general homeless people, find a new respect for themselves, thereby making them more able to accept the help offered, and, as the best benefit, creates in them a drive to get their lives back in order. When you have respect for yourself you develop the drive it takes to overcome any obstacle.
When a person comes along with resources to help a person with self-respect the interaction becomes more of a collaboration, rather than a hand out.
One way helps the homeless veteran, or other homeless person, for a short term. The other makes the client into an active participant in the process. This builds “equity” by the client in his/her own recovery that is much less likely to fail due to client not following up.
After the media spotlight on the issue generated by the hVET tent event, there will be a period of time where the various VSOs and other persons that work with the homeless, will be able to develop and strengthen the networks they created with the connections made under the tent.
Events will be planned to keep the issue in the spotlight as well as to further facilitate the building of networks to enhance the efficient use of resources within the Homeless support network.
During this time there will be formation of a large donor support network for the Homeless Veteran Empowerment Town, (or hVET2). As this network develops, and we have committed funds, we will begin to build the multi-acre facility, the design of which will be finalized in discussions among the various interested parties while fund commitments are raised.
Step Three – The Town (hVET2)
The preceding steps are to raise awareness, introduce the vision of hVET and to secure committed funds to build the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town.
The Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town is envisioned to be a safe place where veterans can be removed from the streets, given food and shelter, and be assisted with whatever the needs are to find gainful income to allow the veteran to maintain self-sufficient living.
The general layout is below. Remember, this will be fine tuned as more groups get involved in the creation of this powerful tool to not only feed and clothe homeless veterans, but to restore their lives to them. Many times a homeless veteran has not had their own home since they left for war.
The homeless Veterans Empowerment Town will operate under a general theme of “Empowerment!”. The approach to creating sustainable independent living will be through a number of steps.
There will be a large number of beds in two dorms. There will be a women’s dorm as well as a male dorm. The total number of beds are envisioned to be about 200. With a large number like this we can take more veterans off the streets as well as create a “flow” of veterans graduating the program to go into their own sustainable home and new veterans being extracted from the streets.
There will be a “chow hall” to feed the vets with three nutritious meals a day. The model will be adapted from the model of the kitchen and dining hall being training for veterans learning skills in demand in the real world. The setting will teach culinary skills as well as hospitality, in the form of servers and support staff. We will work agreements with local restaurants and other businesses to give our graduates priority in hiring. We will work with the VA and other government agencies to establish programs to give employers incentive to hire veterans from the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town.
We will work to create a stable, strong mental platform to build on, we will address the veterans emotional state. We will have a clinic with mental health professionals, and other medical staff, to deal with the physical and emotional issues that get in the way of finding or accepting help that is offered. It also helps to ensure help that is given is used most efficiently.
There will be a section with buildings and a number of rooms used for training. We will provide training in two ways. For some skills, such as office software (Microsoft office, using the internet for job searching and more), there will be live instructors.
For some skills tools will be supplied, such as books, online computers and more, to facilitate self training on skills that the veteran would like to lean to use in job searches or to create a business of their own. Business creation by clients that can support themselves or themselves and other veterans will be encouraged.
Transportation to job interviews and to jobs will be supplied to those who need it. Helping a veteran get to job interviews and to be reliable once on the job will be a priority of Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town. Once living on their own, Transportation issues to get to work will be managed according to each veteran’s needs. This can include a bus pass, help obtaining a car and other ideas to help the veteran keep gainful employment.
Other facets of life at the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town will include a community garden. This can be a very therapeutic endeavor for helping heal PTSD. It will also help keep the cost of feeding everyone down.
There are groups In the San Diego area that offer various types of animal therapy. I envision there to be regular visits from these groups to help veterans with emotional issues heal. As well, I would like to see a few “Community pets”, dogs and cats mostly, that will roam freely and be around for those that benefit from this.
We will establish regular “community outings” for those who would like to visit some of the nice places in San Diego.
There will be more to the Homeless Veterans Empowerment Town as it is developed. Right now I am proposing the framework, but I envision many other supporters to have input into how it evolves.
Thank you for your support!
Please visit the Go Fund Me page for a full description of the current plans for both hVET and hVET2.